Passive Activism |
Lars Schmidt

Mountains and Rivers
are Speaking

The Arts in Service - Interrelating the Arts, Ecological and Spiritual Understanding
A Master in Fine Arts Practice and Performance
2019/2020, Glasgow School of Arts

As stated at another place on this website, my fields of inquiry, study and work range from different art forms, to ecological, agricultural and contemplative practices.

I had started out as an artist, working with photography, music and poetry, and also acting for TV and film in the US and Germany, before sensing a need to know more about plant, soil and animal life, as well as learning how to build my own shelter, plant vegetables or make cheese.

Following this impulse I started living, working and learning on organic farms in France and Italy for about two years. I gained a Diploma of Applied Permaculture Design and initiated the Berlin based project 'Art, Ecology & Education' in 2006.

The project focused on providing and facilitating ‘input and impulses for life-sustaining cultures’ through interdisciplinary sharings: art/activism projects, lectures, concerts, and workshops integrating acting, dance and deep ecology work. The project also involved community gardening, permaculture courses, international field research and networking, as well as inspiring the first Berlin Transition Town Initiative.

In 2010 I followed a call to inquire deeper into Eastern philosophies and practices, retreating into the French mountains and living simply for the following 2 years.

Since then, I have engaged and shared internationally mainly in the dance and improvisation scene, as well as organising readings, facilitating workshops and leading projects on an independent, self-supported basis.
The central concern throughout was to give mountains and rivers a voice, and to offer a space to inquire what 'learning to listen' might stand for.

This year I have been offered a place on the Masters in Fine Art Practice and Performance at Glasgow School of Arts.

I welcome this opportunity as a way to formalise the studies I have been doing independently and to have a qualification that enables me to make the following proposal accessible to a wider context.

I am looking towards collaborations and using the potential of creative energy in service and in response to the current social and environmental emergency.  

The following is an outline of my proposal for GSA.

Learning to live and to die -
Life in service of all beings

MLitt in Fine Arts Practice and Performance

“We have no end of information to hand. What we lack is a narrative, one that makes deep sense to us, that allows each one of us to sort the relevant from the irrelevant in our lives.
We need a metanarrative that will guide those who feel lost and those who want to work toward a future other than the bleak one now before us.”
- Barry Lopez

"It is my opinion that art lost its basic creative drive the moment it was separated from worship. It severed an umbilical cord and now lives its own sterile life, generating and degenerating itself." - Ingmar Bergmann

"So how are you going to deal with a senseless situation that is a consequence of pathological individualism? The only way forward is to bring on a Revolution of Compassion…" - The Dalai Lama, A Call for Revolution, 2018

Not unlike an ancient Japanese teamaster, whose abilities and knowledge had to range from the knowledge about the plantation and preparation of tea or food, to garden design and architecture, philosophy, spiritual understanding and practices, poetry, pottery or calligraphy, altogether laying out the Way of Tea, I would like to propose and investigate a concept of artistic expression that mirrors the understanding of the Way of Tea (Chado), or Teaism as a way of life.

This approach resonates deeply with me, while it is also very timely, since it proposes a transcendence of the current conventions, which constitute our way of viewing not only art, but the world itself.

Undertaking a Masters in the context of a well-respected art school will provide the opportunity for greater exposure and collaboration, for proposing innovative ideas and developing new practices in times when they are desperately needed.

As mentioned, I propose to introduce this approach not only in the academic context, but also in the context of daily living or engaging with our so-called environment.
It is an approach based on an open and attentive way of listening and a way of seeing that transcends disciplines and compartmentalization.
It is an approach that includes bravery in thought and action, fueled by a love for all life.

The year-long Master may be seen as an outline for the above inquiry, as well as a sharing of what it takes to live a full, responsible and respectful life.
In other words: what it means to live artfully.

Throughout the program I will deepen my studies of Mahayana and Zen Buddhism, as well as further my research on indigenous insights, approaches and practices dealing with the embeddedness and interdependence of humans and the natural surroundings.

Improvisation and instant composition will play a central role in my work.

There will be a continuous documentation of inquiries, artistic and poetic work, as well as interdisciplinary collaborations with representatives and projects of artistic, spiritual and ecological background.

Consequently, my engagement in the Master contributes to a certain spirit and dynamic, a certain 'change of narrative' more than anything else.
Being in service is (re)introduced as a concept of artistic expression and as a timely and relevant demand from the artist.

Summary

Relevance - why this, why now?
- Developing tools and skills in a time of societal and environmental collapse
- Coping with anxiety, grief and uncertainty
- Learning to live in service of all beings

Key words:
Community and Collaboration
Integration
Regeneration
Adaptation

Key concepts:
The understanding of unconditional love
Compassion
Bravery
Being of service

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